Senate Rejects Competing Proposals To End Government Shutdown
The Senate rejected Republican and Democratic proposals as expected but there are some signs of movement forward.
As expected, the Senate has rejected two competing proposals to end the government shutdown, thus leaving Congress and the Trump Administration back where we started as 800,000 Federal workers stand to go another pay period without a paycheck and one-third of the government remains shut down:
WASHINGTON — A Democratic plan to reopen the government without money for President Trump’s border wall failed in the Senate on Thursday, sending lawmakers back to the drawing board to forge a compromise that could end the stalemate and bring about a quick resolution to a partial shutdown now nearing its sixth week.
A half dozen Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for the measure, but the tally still fell short of the 60 votes it needed to advance, 52-44. The defeated measure is similar to one the Senate approved unanimously in December, only to see Mr. Trump reject it and the House cancel a planned vote on it. Republican views in the Senate have shifted dramatically since then to reflect the president’s.
The action came just after Mr. Trump’s own proposal to reopen the government and devote $5.7 billion to his border wall failed on a similar near-party-line vote that underlined the depth of the divide. That measure paired wall funding with temporary legal protections for some immigrants and measures to make it more difficult to claim asylum in the United States.
The back-to-back votes illustrated the gulf between Mr. Trump and Democrats in the ongoing shutdown saga. But lawmakers and aides in both parties expressed hope that the double-barreled losses will break the logjam that has gripped Washington since the partial shutdown began Dec. 22 and force the two sides to come up with an alternative that both can support.
“Is this the beginning of the end, or is it just the end of the beginning? We shall find out,” said Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama.
House Democrats are discussing a proposal to spend as much as $5.2 billion on what they are calling a “smart wall” with drones, sensors, some additional fencing, but no wall from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico.
The urgency is mounting. Friday marks the second consecutive payday this month when 800,000 federal workers will miss a paycheck as a result of the shutdown.
Mr. Trump’s plan was loosely modeled after an idea that was the centerpiece of quiet bipartisan talks to strike a compromise over the past several weeks to end the shutdown. Among the ideas discussed was legislation that would pair border security money with permanent legal status for Dreamers, the undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children who stand to lose their deportation protections and work permits after Mr. Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, created by President Barack Obama in 2012.
While it included some of those components, the measure that failed on Thursday was dismissed as a nonstarter by Democratic leaders because it substantially narrowed DACA eligibility, and extends it for only three years, while making major changes to asylum law that would make it harder for migrants fleeing violence and persecution to find refuge in the United States. It would also extend three-year reprieves for those living in the United States under Temporary Protected Status — granted in times of conflict or natural disaster — who stand to be removed after Mr. Trump ended their protections.
More from Politico:
The Senate blocked two proposals on Thursday to reopen the government, but amid the ongoing stalemate, there’s some hope that Washington might be inching closer toward ending a shutdown now on its 34th day.
In a 52-44 vote, the Senate rejected House-backed legislation that would fund the government through February 8. The Senate, ina 50-47 vote, blocked legislation endorsed by President Donald Trump that provided $5.7 billion for his border wall and granted temporary protection for some undocumented immigrants.
The bills were expected to fail.
Six Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Mitt Romney of Utah and Johnny Isakson of Georgia joined Democrats to vote in favor of the continuing resolution.
“I’ve said all along we should fund border security, keep the government open,” Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said prior to the vote. “We can walk and chew gum at the same time.” He added that Coloradans “don’t understand why Congress can’t get its job done.”
When asked about the Republican defections on the continuing resolution bill, Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said that members are “frustrated and want to do everything they can do move the process forward.”
The dueling votes marked the first time the Senate has formally moved on government funding since the shutdown began. And senators this week signaled a note of optimism, saying that even though Thursday’s bills were going to fail, they at least represented movement and possibly the start of negotiations to end the shutdown.
“I think it certainly puts everybody on record, and if nothing else I would hope at least that this would get the conversation going again,” Thune said.
About 20 dozen House Democrats marched over to the Senate during the vote in an unsuccessful effort to pressure Republicans to back to the clean spending bill.
House Democrats are also preparing a counteroffer of sorts to Trump that reportedly would provide at least $5 billion in border security, but no new funding for the wall. Democrats on Thursday, however, were tightlipped leaving a planning meeting in Pelosi’s office and refused to detail what level of border funding will be in the proposal or how far-reaching it is.
The proposal, set to be made public Friday, suggests pressure is mounting to find a solution to the impasse. Earlier this week, a group of centrist House Democrats drafted a letter to Pelosi asking that she give Trump a vote on his border wall or a border security package in exchange for re-opening the government. The Democrat-controlled House has also repeatedly passed legislation to re-open the government — most recently a spending bill Thursday to re-open the Department of Homeland Security.
Some House Democrats have privately dismissed the DHS proposal as a messaging document meant to ease their rank-and-file’s frustrations with the prolonged stalemate. But House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said Thursday he’s confident the Democratic counteroffer will be a starting point for serious talks with the president once the government is reopened.
“I maintain hope that people will come to their senses real soon. And I’m very confident that the proposals we’re putting forward will gain traction and will become a significant part of whatever the negotiations are going forward,” Clyburn said. “We won’t get 100 percent of what we want and we want the president to understand he won’t get 100 percent of what he wants.”
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said Thursday that part of the reason is Democrats haven’t decided how to present the offer – whether just to roll out a DHS bill or send Trump an accompanying letter outlining what exactly they will support on the border.
“The letter is still a work in progress. As to what format it will be, we’re not sure. It could be that or it could be another format,” Thompson told reporters.
You can check the roll call votes on the Trump proposal and the Democratic proposal at the respective links and, other than the fact that there were a handful of crossover votes for each measure by Senate Republicans, the vote turned out about as expected. On the Trump bill, for example, both Senators Mike Lee and Tom Cotton voted with Senate Democrats in opposition to the Cloture Motion while Senator Joe Manchin voted in favor of cloture. On the Democratic proposal, as noted above, six Republicans voted in favor of the Democratic proposal, including newly elected Republican Senator from Utah Mitt Romney as well as Republicans such as Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Lamar Alexander, Johnny Isakson, and Cory Gardner. In both cases, of course, the crossover votes were insufficient in that the Trump proposal would have needed ten more Democrats to support it, while the Democratic proposal would have needed eight more Republicans.
What happens next is somewhat up in the air. As I noted earlier, the Democrats in the House are preparing their own proposal that is purported to include $5.7 billion in funding for border security, although not for the President’s wall. That proposal is expected to be released tomorrow. In the meantime, shortly after the Senate vote, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders put forward the following statement on Twitter:
Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Chuck Schumer are meeting now to see whether or not they can work out of the deadlock. As was made clear to Senator Lindsay Graham, the 3 week CR would only work if there is a large down payment on the wall.
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) January 24, 2019
And Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted this:
I strongly urge my Democratic colleagues to work with the White House on a 3 week CR that includes a down payment on wall/barrier funding consistent with DHS priorities.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) January 24, 2019
There’s no word what the White House means by “large down payment,” but it implies that it would be something more than symbolic funding but perhaps something less than the $5.7 billion that the President has been demanding until now. The idea of a three-week Continuing Resolution among Republicans has been circulating for several days now, apparently, and has gained new life after the defeat Whether anything comes of this, or of the Democratic proposal that will be released tomorrow, is something only time will tell but at the very least its clear that the shutdown won’t be solved today, and probably not this week. But maybe, just maybe, we’re near the end of the beginning of this ordeal.